Mad Rollin' Dolls
Oyler: 'One of my biggest hopes for the weekend is that a whole lot of people, especially those who have never seen flat track roller derby before, get the opportunity to watch our sport at its finest.'
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire city to plan a major sports tournament. No one knows this more than the -- will bring 240 skaters from the best leagues east of the Mississippi along with hundreds of staff and volunteers, and throngs of loyal fans to Madison. And making it happen is no roll in the park.
Steph Oyler, more popularly known to the derby crowd as Kill Billie, took on the role of tournament director last summer when the Mad Rollin' Dolls and Madison were selected to host the competition. Organizing an event of this magnitude is a daunting task, to say the least; but Oyler, who skates during the Dolls' home season for the Unholy Rollers, jumped at the chance to take charge. She knew that with the help of the community, she could bring a derby dream to fruition.
"It was such an awesome opportunity to bring this level of roller derby to Madison that I didn't think we should pass it up," Oyler says. Working by day for the City of Madison in the Department of Civil Rights, she is also currently pursuing an associate's degree in Meeting and Event Management at MATC.
"It can be very difficult to balance the tournament and my everyday life commitments," notes Oyler, who spends roughly 20 to 30 hours per week planning the tournament. "But we have so much talent in the Mad Rollin' Dolls," she admitted, "I knew we could be successful."
Making that DIY dream a reality truly does take a community.
"It takes the support of both our local community and the larger roller derby community," says Oyler. "We've been fortunate to work with the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau, and they've provided us with a lot of advice and services, not to mention a grant that was designed to bring sporting events to Madison.
"WFTDA is a great resource for us, too, because although the organization is only a few years old, we're able to learn a lot from other leagues, from their mistakes and successes," she continues. "Other leagues in the area have been a great help, too, by helping us promote in their bout programs and providing volunteers for the event. And of course, our own skaters, committee managers and volunteers have been invaluable -- we couldn't be putting on this tournament without everyone pitching in."
In total, there will be about 250 volunteers working during the tournament. "There are 20 full length bouts scheduled over the course of the event," notes Oyler, "which requires a lot of man and woman power."
Many of those volunteers joined the planning brigade along with Oyler last year, and have been working hard ever since. Skaters, staff, and willing helpers have been toiling over everything from publicity, marketing, and sponsorship to online and grassroots promotion, and all the smaller jobs in between.
"We have volunteers tasked with everything from setting up a skating surface, to hanging banners and running the scoreboards," explains Oyler. "A bunch of talented DJ's will be spinning tunes live for the event. Team hosts will be helping their assigned team stay on schedule and find everything they need around Madison, vendor liaisons will be making sure that our merchants are comfortable, and WFTDA reps will be on-hand to schmooze."
There will also be volunteers selling tickets and merchandise, working security at the doors, wrangling the press, and doing everything imaginable to keep the proverbial (and literal) wheels rolling.
Kristin Ginther, a skater otherwise known as Sour Kraut, took over fundraising and tournament promotion duties -- including endless hours of postering and guerilla marketing, organizing events and fundraisers, and producing a promotional video. In fact, she recently quit her job as an administrative assistant to take on the tourney full time.
"I'm excited for the tournament because it's a golden opportunity for our league to help spread the love of derby throughout our community," she says. "It's an awesome way to showcase the advancements our sport has made in the past few years and to give our fans a glimpse of derby future."
Though the work has been hard and the hours long, Steph Oyler has high hopes for Derby in Dairyland. "One of my biggest hopes for the weekend is that a whole lot of people, especially those who have never seen flat track roller derby before, get the opportunity to watch our sport at its finest," she declares. "I am so proud to be a part of the modern roller derby resurgence, and I want everyone to experience how fun and accessible our sport is."
So if you haven't done so already, get yourself some tickets for the tournament running from Friday, October 10 through Sunday, October 12, and come see what this phenomenon is all about.
"I hope skaters walk away from this event thinking that it was the most well organized tournament they've attended," concludes Oyler, "and that fans walk away with an appreciation for why all of the skaters and volunteers put so much blood, sweat and tears into this sport."
Melissa Faliveno skates as Harlot Bronte with the Mad Rollin' Dolls. Off the track, she works as an editor and freelance writer in Madison.